Military News

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Obama Praises U.S. Military Rescue of Maersk-Alabama Captain

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

April 12, 2009 - President Barack Obama praised the U.S. military's rescue of the kidnapped captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship on the waters off the coast of Somalia today. U.S. naval forces freed Capt. Richard Phillips five days after Somali pirates took him hostage.

"I am very pleased that Captain Phillips has been rescued and is safely on board the USS Boxer," Obama said in a White House statement. "His safety has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew.

"I am also very proud of the efforts of the US military and many other departments and agencies who worked tirelessly to secure Captain Phillips' safe recovery," he said. "I share the country's admiration for the bravery of captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew. His courage is a model for all Americans."

Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, comended those involved in the rescue.

"This was an incredible team effort, and I am extremely proud of the tireless efforts of all the men and women who made this rescue possible," Gortney said in a U.S. Navy release. Gortney said Phillips' actions, and those of the Maersk-Alabama crew, were heroic.

"They fought back to regain control of their ship, and Captain Phillips selflessly put his life in the hands of these armed criminals in order to protect his crew," he said.

Following the rescue, Phillips was taken aboard the USS Bainbridge before being flown to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, where he contacted his family, received a routine medical evaluation, and is resting comfortably, according to a U.S. Navy statement.

Three pirates were killed during the rescue operation, and U.S. military forces have one pirate in custody, the statement said.

Hostage Captain Was in 'Imminent Danger' at Time of Rescue

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

April 12, 2009 - The captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia was in "imminent danger" when U.S. military snipers shot and killed his three pirate captors, a U.S. Navy commander said today. Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, provided preliminary details of the rescue mission that freed Capt. Richard Phillips today during a news conference.

Off the Somali coast, U.S. special operations snipers held positions at the rear of the USS Bainbridge, which was towing an 18-foot lifeboat that held Phillips and three pirates some 25-30 meters away.

"The snipers positioned on the fantail of the Bainbridge observed one of the pirates in the pilot house -- and two pirates with their head and shoulders exposed -- and one of the pirates had the AK47 (assault rifle) leveled at the captain's back," Gortney said.

Gortney said the White House had given military operators "very clear guidance and authority" if Phillips' life was in danger.

"The on-scene commander took it as the captain was in imminent danger and then made that decision (to shoot), and he had the authorities to make that decision, and he had seconds to make that decision," he said.

On the marksmanship of the snipers Gortney said, "We pay a lot for their training and we got a good return on our investment."

Naval forces rescued Phillips on a rigid-inflatable boat and transferred him to the USS Bainbridge before being flown to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, where he contacted his family, received a routine medical evaluation, and is resting comfortably, ccording to a U.S. Navy statement.

Gortney said Phillips was in good health and suffered no apparent injuries, despite being "tied up inside the lifeboat" for at least part of his five days as a hostage. He noted that a fourth pirate surrendered and is being held in U.S. forces' custody.

The admiral praised the military servicemembers involved in the rescue.

"I could not be more proud to represent all the men and women in uniform who worked tirelessly to make this rescue possible," he said.